“Eight Arms but No Hands” ends the debut season of Avenue 5 in a fitting way — with more stupidity, desperation and delusion than ever.
This recap of Avenue 5 Season 1, Episode 9, “Eight Arms but No Hands”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Throughout the debut season of HBO’s bleak, hysterical sci-fi comedy Avenue 5, stupidity is what the luxury off-course space-liner has burned for fuel. While it began as a commentary on how the filthy-rich exploit the facile appetites of the slightly-less-filthy-rich to grow a pile of already ill-gotten gains, it quickly became a commentary on how money can’t buy intelligence – it can only dress up stupidity in fancy clothes. The show has consistently delighted in literal toilet humor, and Avenue 5 Episode 9, the first season finale, is no different, but it has gradually made a rather astute point about how the upper-class can’t function without the lower classes whose labor they exploit.
The cast of Avenue 5 continue to be gripped by fear and panic in “Eight Arms but No Hands”, and coincidentally enough so does the rest of the world – the Covid-19 pandemic and the mass hysteria it has prompted feels like a chilling parallel of what was previously just a ridiculous satire of idiots denying their own idiocy. Now, it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to imagine that people would foolishly bundle into an airlock or, in this case, a supply shuttle, when given the vague chance to escape their own impending doom.
The setup for the first part of Avenue 5 Episode 9 is that Matt (Zach Woods), in his grief, has changed the code to the airlocks so no more innocent people can stupid themselves to death – this has the unintended consequence of preventing the mass jettisoning of nonessential belongings that is going to reduce the journey time, so everyone else, believing that he has gone to kill himself, has to try and track him down and get the new codes from him. This is made more dramatic by Billie (Lenora Crichlow) announcing – somewhat arbitrarily – that all the excess weight has to be jettisoned within the hour, lest the ship be consigned to its original trajectory, and Cyrus (Neil Casey) reminding everyone that the codes are also needed to retrieve Captain Joe’s hands since Clark (Hugh Laurie) isn’t capable of learning how to dock the ship in time.
This allows “Eight Arms but No Hands” to pair the cast off in fun ways: Clark and Judd (Josh Gad) explore the pristine bowels of the ship in search of Matt, Karen (Rebecca Front) and Iris (Suzy Nakamura) try to accumulate enough debris to shed the right amount of excess weight, and Rav (Nikki Amuka-Bird) arrives on the rescue shuttle thoroughly bewildered by the whole affair. A part of me wishes we’d spent more time with Rav aboard the Avenue 5, but I suppose that’s what second seasons are for.
Rav is, at least, able to get Matt to give up the new code with threats of physical violence, leaving the rest of Avenue 5 Season 1, Episode 9 to be spent fighting over the lone seat in the supply shuttle that can spirit someone back to Earth. Naturally, Judd gets there first, but he’s talked out of it by Jordan (Himesh Patel), who tells him everyone on Earth hates him because he contemplated mass murder. Judd leaves, and Jordan sprints aboard. The pilot then leaves, so Doug (Kyle Bornheimer) and Mia (Jessica St. Clair) get on, ejecting Jordan and confessing their undying love for one another before Clark, having been driven near-mad by the revelation that Captain Joe’s hands are useless, throws them both off.
Clark himself is the next person to be volunteered for escape in “Eight Arms but no Hands”, and he almost makes it – everyone else even salutes him as he’s about to leave, with the obvious exception of Billie, who reminds him that the ship can’t dock without his handprint. Since the shuttle is mostly automated, a countdown begins warning the pilot that he’s due to press the second button and thus leave; this coincides with the countdown for the jettison that Karen has organized, both of which are in Judd’s overlapping voice. Iris physically removes Jordan from the shuttle so that Judd can get on, but the countdowns finish while she’s still aboard.
Disaster, then, and even more so once Karen reveals that she ejected the equivalent weight of 500 passengers out of the port airlocks rather than the rear ones for the sake of expediency. This has, of course, knocked the ship even further off-course, and their new trajectory is going to be at least eight years – longer, as Matt astutely points out, than the Seven Years’ War. As Iris leaves in the shuttle, everyone else presses themselves against the window and hopelessly shouts her name.
She can’t hear them.